Incas & Conquistadors built empires stretching the Andean mountains of South America
Take a trip back in time to the land where once the mighty Incas held sway. Tradition, music and culture envelop us as we walk through local markets, explore the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu, climb aboard local trains which take us through landscapes ranging from lush subtropical areas to the barren, wind-swept altiplano.
Day by Day Summary
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Days 1 - 2
Day 1 - Departure
Daytime direct flight on Saturday to Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated between two ranges of the snowcapped Andes, Quito's setting and temperate climate is beautiful. You will be met at the airport by our representative who will take you to your hotel for 2 nights and give you a quick introduction to the area and your programme.
Day 2 - Lima City Tour
Morning tour of the City, including the grand colonial squares in the centre, the Presidential Palace, Plaza San Martín and the Larco Herrera Museum, with a fabulous collection of ancient artefacts from all over Peru.
Days 3 - 5
Day 3 - Flight to La Paz
A morning flight to La Paz, where we stay for 2 nights. Spend the afternoon relaxing and acclimatising to the altitude.
Day 4 - La Paz City Tour
Our tour of the city follows a maze of streets and alleyways to visit colonial squares, churches and streets lined with little shops selling wonderful weavings, traditional musical instruments and jewellery, before leading us to the witches' market, where charismatic ladies sell a range of herbs, bottled potions and amulets to cure all ills. We continue to the Moon Valley, an area of sandstone, sculpted by wind and rain to create a surreal lunar landscape.
Day 5 - Tiahuanaco
Trip to the magnificent pre-Inca ruins at Tiahuanaco to visit the ornate stonework and hear all about the myths and mysteries of this lost civilization from our local guide.
Days 6 - 9
Day 6 - Flight to Sucre
Flight to Sucre, Bolivia's official capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, where we will stay for 4 nights. Its importance in the history of Bolivia has left a rich legacy of colonial buildings, many of which still preserve the traditional white façades, imparting an atmosphere of gentle calm.
Day 7 - Sucre city tour
Today we explore this small, yet elegant city. We will visit shady plazas with white colonial buildings, quiet parks and lively local markets and see religious paintings, sculptures and period furniture in the colonial churches and museums.
Day 8 - Potosí
Early departure for the best light on the road climbing through mountains and valleys to the famous mining town of Potosí (4070m). Towering over the city, the Cerro Rico is an imposing, colourful mountain whose stores of silver and other precious metals, although seriously depleted since the Spanish Conquest, are still being mined. We will visit the central square, the convent and the old Spanish Mint before returning to Sucre.
Day 9 - Tarabuco Sunday Market
Visit Tarabuco's colourful Sunday market, where local Quechua people, many dressed in their traditional costumes with helmet-like headgear, sit behind pyramids of coca leaves, herbs, grains, fruit and vegetables, whilst others sell their traditional woven goods. A vibrant and authentic display of South America's heritage.
Days 10 - 11
Day 10 - Sun Island
An early flight to La Paz from where we drive along the lake shore with snow-capped mountains in the backround to the charming village of Copacabana, Bolivia's main pilgrimage centre. In the afternoon we take a boat to Sun Island, walk along farmers trails and terraces up to our Ecolodge with panoramic views of the lake. Explore the trails with majestic views or simply relax and admire the lake.
Day 11 - Puno
Morning time to walk and explore the Sun Island before continuing our route skirting Lake Titicaca to Puno on the Peruvian side, staying at our lakeside hotel.
Days 12 - 13
Day 12 - Andean Explorer Train
Board the luxurious Andean Explorer Train to Cusco to cross the dramatic Andean landscape. You will sit at a table by the window, where lunch and afternoon tea will be served, as the route takes you through beautiful Andean landscapes, of snow covered mountains, past fields of grazing cattle, hot springs and small villages. The train stops at isolated railway stations where local people await to sell local food and handicrafts. On arrival at Cusco transfer to the Sacred Valley for 2 nights.
Day 13 - Sacred Valley of the Incas Tour
A scenic, full day trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, driving through the beautiful Urubamba valley, visiting Ollantaytambo, with its ancient irrigation system still in good working order, Pisac ruins to see the remains of some of the finest examples of Inca masonry, small villages in the countryside, the ancient Inca terraces where people still plant Quinoa and the local Pisac market, a colourful affair where villagers come from miles around to barter and sell food and weavings.
Days 14 - 15
Day 14 - Train to Machu Picchu
Set off by train along the course of the Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes. This is a spectacular journey through a dramatic and changing landscape with some fantastic views. From Aguas Calientes, you will be met by your guide and take a bus up the steep mountain side to the magnificent citadel of Machu Picchu, which silently awaits. You will have a private guided tour of the ruins to learn about the Inca culture and history of the site, the rest of the afternoon is free.
Day 15 - Machu Picchu at Leisure
Early mornings offer an excellent opportunity for a quiet stroll around Machu Picchu, a walk along the Inca Trail to Intipunku (Sun Gate), or a strenuous climb to Huayna Picchu, the rocky escarpment overlooking the ruins. In the afternoon bus and train back to Cusco, where we stay for 3 nights.
Days 16 - 18
Day 16 - Cusco city tour
Morning free to relax, in the afternoon a fascinating tour of Cusco and the ruins surrounding the city. Within Cusco the evidence of Inca culture is still visible, despite the destructive tendencies of the conquistadors. The Cathedral, churches and numerous other buildings are erected on solid Inca stonework foundations, unchanged over the centuries. Outside the city stands the mighty fortress and religious site of Sacsayhuamán, an astounding megalithic structure, whose massive stones, weighing over 100 tons each, fit together with characteristic Inca precision.
Day 17 - Cusco at Leisure
A full day at leisure in Cusco to explore the city, relax, take an optional extra excursion, or simply enjoy the surroundings and atmosphere of this magnificent city.
Day 18 - Departure
Flight to Lima, connecting with return flight home in the early evening and arriving the following day, Day 19.